Ever since Christmas I have noticed a very specific change to my usual regimented and strictly controlled regime of cycling habits. This change came as a direct result of a pre-Christmas trip to the supermarket and the sudden dawning realisation that not all house guests want to drink alcohol.
It’s not usually for me to judge these people – each to their own – but on this particular day it was for me to judge what beverages to stock up on to service the needs of these paragons of virtue (aka, the losers in the great ‘who’s driving tonight?’ arm-wrestle).
The fact is, I’m not best placed to make this call. If I find myself in need of a non-alcoholic drink I’m easily satisfied by a cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of tap water. I’m just that straightforward. I have almost no impact whatsoever on our family shopping habits.
When it comes to tea, being both English and northern it is, I think I’m right in saying, a legal requirement that our house contains ample supplies at all times. I’ve had this instilled into me since being a small boy. If we are running low on tea bags I instinctively know this, and pop a box into the shopping trolley without a second thought.
If the doomsday scenario did ever arrive where we had (whisper it) run out of tea-bags any number of close friends would come running, on hand to help through sheer, primal, English, northern empathy.
Coffee wise, we are lucky here in Lancaster to have a nice little local coffee roaster whose shop is a simple pleasure to visit. Buying coffee represents one of those little get-outs that we all have; a reason to escape the house for twenty minutes of peace and quiet. For that reason we are always extremely well stocked.
Tap water we have, quite literally, on tap.
But others – Christmas guests, for example – have needs that are greater than this. Non-alcoholic beer, tonic water, fruit juice, sparkling water, fruit cordial, milk…?
I settled on a rather pricey bottle of elderflower cordial and some sparkling water. It struck me as posher than most soft drinks, and looks a bit like wine when it’s in a glass, and so creates a mild illusion of occasion.
I was quite pleased with myself, but only because I was unaware of where this innocuous purchase would lead.
And here I am: a cyclist who is powered by elderflowers; perhaps the ultimate middle-class protagonist in a hobby increasingly filled with middle-class protagonists.
Some have their over-expensive bikes, others have their Rouleur subscriptions and their pre-ride single source hand roasted espresso’s, but I have a bike bottle filled to the brim with elderflower cordial.
And the worst of it? I don’t think there’s any going back.
You can keep your ten-a-penny energy drinks of tropical fruits and lemon and lime – once you’ve hydrated mid-ride using a heady elderflower syrup mixed with crisp, cold tap-water, you have truly glimpsed how the other half live (or rather, ride).
My joy at finding this new on-board refuelling was so absolute that I immediately snaffled the whole bottle, leaving my poor tee-total guests to quaff fizzy water with a slice of lime – a poor substitute. One guest even accepted my (not entirely serious) offer of a festive glass of milk.
Take it from me; in a room of people downing Prosecco and mulling wine, a sole party-goer cradling a glass of milk is a tragic sight.
So my advice to you is to cast aside your scientifically calibrated sports drinks and seek out your own unique refreshment. I’ve seen your mixed berry electrolyte drink and raised you an elderflower cordial.
It’s your move…